National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson urged Congress and international leaders to take meaningful steps to mitigate climate change and pledge themselves to provide adequate risk management tools for America’s family farmers and ranchers, who are charged with ensuring the nation’s food security and have been dealing with a changing climate for decades.
“Earth’s climate is changing – temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, and precipitation patterns are shifting. The nation’s family farmers and ranchers have been in the trenches, working through that reality for years,” said Johnson. “Farmers and ranchers need access to both robust risk management tools and resources to help them cope with this new reality, or global food security is at risk,” he said.
Johnson noted that average temperatures have risen across the contiguous 48 states since 1901, with an increased rate of warming over the past 30 years. And the most recent 50 years likely have been the warmest worldwide in at least the last 1,300 years. This increase in temperature not only threatens grain production, but meat production as well.
“Grain yields decline about 5 percent for every one degree of temperature increase,” said Johnson. “Livestock production systems are vulnerable to temperature stresses as well, leading to reduced productivity per animal and thus higher costs for farmers and ranchers,” he added.
“This presents a real challenge for family farmers and ranchers who will be tasked with greatly increasing their productivity per acre to meet the needs of the world’s quickly expanding population,” he added. “Thankfully, there are means for adaptation and mitigation through strong, smart public policy that focuses on reduced emissions and increased sequestration.”
Johnson noted that NFU has long supported sundry conservation measures including no-till, the planting of cover crops, Conservation Reserve Program participation, and the use of high-efficiency machinery and equipment. “These practices are common among our membership, and with continued education can become more commonplace across our nation.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has noted, “evidence exists that the U.S. is already experiencing an increased incidence of extreme weather events,” has suggested several steps that farmers and ranchers can take to either reduce emissions, increase sequestration, or both.
“We appreciate the administration’s efforts to increase development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as USDA’s work engaging farmers in climate mitigation through existing conservation programs. Their work educating farmers on how climate will affect their operations through the regional Climate Hubs is also, and will continue to be, essential to maintaining high productivity and food security,” Johnson said. “But it is past time for Congress to step up.”
Johnson urged America’s farmers and ranchers to make clear to Congress that it needs to ensure that public policy initiatives that mitigate climate change are fully implemented and that risk management tools for farmers remain fully funded.
“The nation has already adopted important public policy steps, like the Renewable Fuel Standard, that must be fully implemented to be effective,” he said. “At the same time, Congress needs to resist pressure for further cuts to the 2014 Farm Bill and crop insurance, two important policy tools that have greatly helped farmers manage the extreme weather fluctuations they’re already experiencing.”
Johnson pointed out that the nation’s farmers and ranchers are responsible stewards of the land, and combined with strong public policy initiatives, will continue to lead the nation in its efforts to mitigate climate change. “Time and again, the nation’s farmers and ranchers have shown that their love for the land and untouchable work ethic, combined with good public policy, are a force to be reckoned with.”
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.